Last spring I decided I was going to plant some hop rhizomes in the back yard and let them climb and wrap around my deck awning. I selected the 2 varieties that I use most in brewing which at the time was Hallertau and Cascade. Well, I quickly learned that the noble Hallertau is in fact not so noble in it's first season in southern Michigan. It grew a mere 4 feet tall and produced one hop cone! Now, my Cascades (yes I capitalize hop varieties) on the other hand... wow, they grew just over 17 feet long and produced hundreds, maybe even in the low thousands of cones. I thought I wasn't going to have a decent harvest first year but dry weight ended up being just under 6oz, plenty for a 5 gallon IPA.
I decided on a recipe that I felt would work really well for a 90 minute using Maris Otter as my base malt to give it that perfect mouthfeel. My entire grain bill looked something like this:
10lbs Maris Otter
2lbs Munich Malt
I mashed for 60 minutes at 155 and tossed 1oz of hops in with the mash. I heard of good results doing this so I figured I'd try it for myself. I tasted the first runnings and there was a definite hoppy quality to the wort that was noticeable.
After I hopped the mash I felt I should just keep going with this and hop every step of the way, so I tossed about 1/2oz into the sparge water as I was bringing it up to temp. It ended up sitting at 168 for 30 minutes which infused even more hop goodness into the process.
You can see me collecting the first runnings for vorlauf, already running pretty clear. This sweet, sweet beer nectar tasted so good infused with my homegrown cascades, I knew I wanted to do something more with this batch, something to set it apart from other IPA's I've brewed in the past. I got an idea from a likely place.
I started thinking about DogFishHead 90 Minute IPA and how they are continuously hopped. I don't have any way to continuously hop except of course to stand there and add them myself by hand. Well, this is exactly what I did. I sat there with a stop watch and for 90 minutes threw one hop cone into the brew kettle every 30 seconds. It was cold outside, so I had to sit in the brew steam to stay warm for the duration of the boil, but it smelled great so I didn't mind. One hop at a time.. lol. I am really looking forward to enjoying one of these this spring while sitting out back and watching the new cascade vines turning into powerhouses of alpha acids!
After the boil I brought it in and ran the wort chiller through it for about 15 minutes to get down to 70ish, and decided to pitch even more hops at this stage, that eventually did make their way into the primary. I ended up on the low side of my target gravity but it shouldn't matter too much, we're only talking like 1/2% ABV.
So this is in fact a single hop beer, but cascades are so complex I feel like it's going to work out just fine. For yeast I went with a yeast cake preserved from a recent batch of my house pale ale of Wyeast 1056 American Ale. The airlock is cranking away and the smell coming from it smells of pure hop oils. I'll give this one about 10 days in the primary and move to secondary to get it off the old hops and yeast cake, and also to dry hop 5 days with the remaining 1oz (approx) of my first year homegrown cascades.
Making your own beer is great, having knowledge of the different malts and hops to design your own beers is better, and growing your own ingredients on top of that... absolutely beautiful.